Sleeping bags collected by Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless, who are volunteering to assist unsheltered people during the winter storm crisis in Texas

I’m impacted by the winter storm crisis. But I still choose to help.

Our disaster response for the US winter weather crisis is fueled by humanist and atheist volunteers living in the impacted areas. But they themselves are facing difficulties from the disaster. Power outages. Lack of water. Broken pipes. Faced with some of these challenges, a lot of people would probably forgo volunteering and focus on self-preservation. So we asked a few volunteer leaders: “with all your personal difficulties, what makes you continue to help others?”

These are some of the responses we got:

“This winter storm reminded so many of how fickle our infrastructure can really be, how quickly we can lose the things we take so often for granted, like power and water. However, witnessing the reality of the unhoused population we serve every month, having to face these extreme weather events head-on, makes me resolve to do something about it even more, right now.” –Phil Session

Phil is coordinator of Austin Atheists Helping the Homeless, which holds massive monthly giveaways of things like thermal underwear, food, and sanitary products to unsheltered people. With your support for our fundraiser, FBB just gave this team $4,000 to buy 100 tents and sleeping bags, and bolster their giveaway’s food component.

Bonus anecdote from when Phil went to a sporting goods store to make a mass purchase (pictured above):

“When I told the manager there what I was doing and what it was for, he called for a little army of associates and 4 baskets to help get it all done.”

How cool is that!?

Here is a quote by a long-time Austin AHH Volunteer and Organizer, Lynn:

"We haven't had electricity or water for days, I've lost count now. I spent all day yesterday looking for firewood. It's been 49 degrees inside my house and we were freezing. I cannot imagine how miserable people experiencing homelessness are."

Another quote comes from Zachary Moore, Interim Executive Director of Fellowship of Freethought-Dallas:

“From my perspective, it’s been a tremendously humbling experience. Our membership has suffered with power outages, frigid homes, and losing access to running water. We’ve had people dealing with physical and social isolation as well, sometimes forced to seek shelter in local Red Cross centers. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to rely on technology and networking solutions to keep people connected, and the Arctic freeze shut these down for many of us. But now that the weather is improving and the ice is thawing, so we are trying to reconnect to ensure the outreach activities that we’ve managed in the past (like our homeless project, providing dinner for the local AIDS center, etc) can continue. Returning to these activities is an important part of reminding ourselves why our community exists.”

We just gave $1,600 to FoF-Dallas to buy 40 tents and sleeping bags, which they’ll distribute directly to people experiencing homelessness on the streets.

These volunteers exemplify what we believe “Humanism At Work” means. It’s always looking at the big picture about your own difficulties, and using that perspective as motivation to help others.

Whether you want to pitch in your time or resources, we want to connect you with ways to help. See our volunteer page if we can help you create service opportunities, or pitch in to the still-important fundraiser here.

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